Our family is fortunate enough to live in a state that offers so much nature and beauty, a state that many come to vacation. While many flock to the ocean, we love the beautiful Great Lakes as much as those ocean beaches we’ve been to. One place in Michigan that is a favorite of ours to visit is Sleeping Bear Dunes Lake Michigan and if you haven’t ever been, you should add it to your traveling bucket list. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore even won the title of “Good Morning America’s” Most Beautiful Place in America in 2011. This stretch of lake shore along Northwest lower Michigan might be one of the Nation’s best-kept secrets but after reading here, you’ll make it a destination to visit.
Sleeping Bear Dunes Lake Michigan
Sleeping Bear Dunes Facts
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore has been part of the National Park System since 1970. It stretches over a 64 mile curve along the Northwest corner of lower Michigan. The park offers miles and miles of beautiful, freshwater beaches as well as forests filled with wildlife, miles upon miles of hiking trails, camping, and a paved pathway that runs for 27 miles. You could visit the park every summer for years and see something new and breathtaking each visit.
Sleeping Bear Dunes Pictures and Hiking Trails
Empire Bluff Trail And Boardwalk Pictures
This year at Sleeping Bear Dunes Lake Michigan, we hiked into the forest and found the Empire Bluff Trail and Boardwalk. Of all the areas we’ve visited in this National Park, this trail may have the most beautiful views of all. It was a peaceful hike through the woods, about 1.5 miles round trip. The trail lets you catch glimpses of the shoreline as you hike in and then opens up overlooking Lake Michigan and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore. There was a great deal of wildlife to see and explore! My daughter climbed up this downed tree just off the path.
From the above photo you can get an idea of how steep the trail gets in some areas but the hike is worth the view! The trail is well maintained and easy enough for little ones to walk. Along the hike we captured this view. It was about halfway in and was great incentive to keep hiking to see the view from the top.
Once we reached the boardwalk at the end of the trail the view really does take your breath away! There are areas to sit and enjoy the view, dunes to climb above the boardwalk for an even grander view and for the kids to be entertained. We spent a great deal of time here just exploring and taking it all in.
Again, my daughter ventured out on another downed log for a photo opportunity. This time with the lake in the backdrop.
Sleeping Bear Dunes Lake Michigan is one place that we just can’t get enough of. The sand, the freshwater, the beautiful colors of the water. It’s truly one of our state’s best!
Dune Climb Pictures
One of Sleeping Bear Dunes most well known areas to visit is the Dune Climb. It may even be the best known natural feature in Michigan. We’ve been to this area many times. It’s a place my family visited when I was a child and that we’ve taken our family several times over the years. It’s also a common destination for school field trips. The hike to the top of the first hill of the Dune Climb is 130 feet, uphill.
From the top of the first hill the view is beautiful and you can see neighboring Glen Lake located in the town of Glen Arbor, another great place to visit. It’s another 130 feet to the 2nd hill and the view from there is even more amazing. It’s a long, difficult hike on the sand if you’re not prepared for it. Again, the views are worth it! This is a view from the first hill and that’s Glen Lake you see in the distance.
Possibly the most well known part and most fun for the kids is the run back down the hills. It’s a steep hill and their little legs get going so fast it’s hard to keep upright. One of our family’s favorites though is what we call “anti-gravity spots”. There are so many spots in the dunes to climb up and jump from and you’ll feel as though gravity just doesn’t exist when you make that jump. The kids love this part of our trips to Sleeping Bear Dunes Lake Michigan.
Maritime Museum at Sleeping Bear
You can also visit the Maritime Museum at Sleeping Bear and during the summer at 3:00 PM each day you can witness a re-enactment of the breeches buoy rescue drill using Raggedy Ann & Andy as shipwreck victims. The kids have done this as part of their school field trips and have loved it! There is a lot to learn about and see at the Maritime Museum as well as in the nearby town of Glen Haven.
The Legend of Sleeping Bear
Another favorite part of Sleeping Bear Dunes is remembering the Legend of Sleeping Bear. It is the story of how the dunes came about. It’s a story of a mama bear and her two cubs who ran from the raging forest fires in Wisconsin to find themselves at the edge of Lake Michigan and nowhere to go to escape the fires but into the lake.
The bears, powerful swimmers, swam through the day and the night to leave the smoke and fires behind. Sometime in the night though, the mama bear lost her cubs. Late the next day she spotted the tall dunes of Michigan. She reached the shore and and looked back but her cubs were nowhere in sight. She called and called for them and then climbed to the top of the dunes to look back.
In the distance she saw her cubs struggling off shore in the cold waters. Her heart broke as she watched the two cubs slip beneath the waves. Heartbroken and exhausted, she laid on the dunes for many days watching the place her cubs were lost. The spirit Gitche Manitou moved by her sorrow and faithfulness. She raised the two islands, North and South Manitou, to remember the bravery of the cubs. Gitche Manitou then laid a slumber on the mama, knowing her heart was forever broken, and drew the sand of the dunes over her like a blanket. You can read the full Legend of Sleeping Bear in the beautifully illustrated book, The Legend of Sleeping Bear.
As you can see, there are many reasons to visit this beautiful spot. If you haven’t been to beautiful Northern Lower Michigan or Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore, it’s truly a vacation destination! If you have ever been to Sleeping Bear Dunes Lake Michigan, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share your experiences in the comments below or on social media @familyfocublog!